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1999 Honda Civic Hatchback - Power Struggle

Is NA Best Or Is Boost Better?

Little Michael Nadsy's Dadsy
Jul 28, 2007
Photographer: Wes Allison

History is littered with tales of epic, mis-matched David- and-Goliath-scale match-ups: The Bride vs. the Crazy 88; Bruce Lee vs. Kareem; Rocky vs. Apollo Creed (twice), Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, Tommy Gunn, Mason Dixon and finally the Grim Reaper, all in a mixed martial arts cage match.

There is an even greater against-the-odds battle brewing, and I'm not talking about Ralphie Parker vs. Scut Farkas (although it's a close second). No, I'm talking about the good old-fashioned struggle between all-motor and turbo. The supercharger set may try to get into this action but that's like the 3000GT trying to muscle in among the Supra, 300ZX, and RX-7 for '80s super GT supremacy; it just doesn't work. But if you thrive on this kind of carnage, our boy Drew breaks it all down elsewhere in this issue (no word yet on a PPV special).

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

For this fight, we assembled two evenly-matched EK hatches. Both come with enough JDM flava to make even Jonny Jade-D M give them a five-star Yelp rating. Both are enriched with a cool, refreshing shot of vitamin K (not to be confused with special K) also known as the K series engine found in the new Si, RSX, and TSX (and now these two EKs!).

We wanted to run a gamut of performance tests to measure everything from chassis and engine dynos (parasitic loss is for pussies) to quarter-mile and circuit lap times. But you know what they say about the best laid plans... uh, we don't either. We're not too bright, so we couldn't conduct such extensive exams. It's also futile to pit a 289hp engine against one with potentially twice the amount of power in any sort of evaluation. Instead, in our own half-assed manner we snapped pictures and interviewed each owner for their specs. We present these hot hatches as fine examples of naturally-aspirated and turbocharged Hondas. You be the judge, is NA best or is boost better?

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NA Is Best
This is the third time we've featured one of Leonard Yee's cars in a mnage a trois of photo shoots (and he didn't even have to pay double for that sort of action). His '00 Si ran in our February '04 issue and this very same EK ran on our cover way back in September of '05. What's that, you say? You don't remember this Kandy Pink K'd EK? Of course not, silly! It was blue at the time with a completely different, naturally-aspirated GSR motor. So, why the extreme makeover, Leonard?

"For the September 05 issue, I had no clue about my car being cover material, and I think a lot of people questioned the decision," Leonard explains (blame Nads- SS staff). So with this car, I wanted to shut all the haters up and build something they would never come close to building. I wanted to raise the bar, so I dug really deep into my pockets for every last penny I had, and came up with this as a result. It started off with an invitation from Honda America to be at their SEMA booth. I knew the car [in its previous condition] would be sufficient, but I wanted to shock everyone, since not many ordinary tuners like me can make it there."

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Boost Is Better
Jason Whitfield is an OG tuner of the highest order. His first "import car" as he calls it was a '90 Integra that he street-raced (before anyone knew what was up) with a shot of nitrous. "After that, I wanted to get something that was smaller and lighter, which of course was the '92 Civic hatch," said Jason. "Shaun Carlson and I decided the NOS was not enough, so we turbocharged the Civic and found out why boost is better. The single cam DX Civic was, by far, way more fun to drive than any of our cars to date. That car was publicized and covered in Turbo as "The World's Fastest Single Cam," until it was crashed by a friend. To finish the build and article, we swapped that engine and turbo setup into my daily-driven CRX. That car was so beat up, Shaun and I wanted to go over it all before the final cover feature, so we used the crazy painted green CRX."

The CRX was the stuff of legend and Jason, a hardcore Honda head, continued to churn out the funkdoobiest H- and A-cars from his low profile Rage Performance (ne Whitfield Racing) until the General came knocking at his door.

"GM called on us to do what we do and build a crazy-looking, real world street racecar that could win at HIN (where we earned 1st place three times), qualify for a major drag race event like NHRA or IDRC (where we won the first 3 events we attended in '06) and look good doing it." But Jason will never stray far from his roots.

"I'll build Honda and Acura cars for customers, as well as myself, until the day I decide to close my doors," Jason stated. "I've read on alot of online forums and web sites about what people think of my relationship with GM; it's less then nice. So just to prove these kids wrong, I plan to put out a few more Hondas this season to showcase my abilities."

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NA is Best
Leonard's biggest challenge with this build was a lack of information about the K swap in general. He researched web sites like www.K20a.org to overcome any problems. "I learned so much about K Series engines, as they are the future of Honda."

"A local shop, R Crew Racing, told me to go with the K-series, and with their support I ventured out a quest," Leonard said. "After I located a low mileage TSX engine (with the larger 2.4-liter block), I contacted Intrinsic Performance, one of the leading K-series builders, to build my engine from the ground up. They sent it out for ERL sleeves bored into 89 mm. Then, they installed JE IPS Custom pistons, IPS rods, and topped off the RSX Type-S head with IPS K2 cams."

For induction, Leonard selected the sweet-like-candy Hayward Performance ITB intake system. ITBs are notoriously difficult to tune properly. With this in mind, Leonard brought his car from Northern to Southern Cali to have Church Automotive work its dyno magic on his all-motor animal.

"Having to build engine and getting it to run properly can cause headaches, as several different parts from multiple places can affect the way the engine performs," said Leonard. But these headaches didn't stop Church from tuning up Leonard's K to send 289 hps to his highly-polished Sprint Harts - more power than most bolt-on turbo kits make. Alright, we understand that Leonard spent some steakhouse coin on a drive-thru engine, but for some there's nothing they won't do to get the unequaled throttle response of a knife-edged NA kit.

Besides, it's inherently easier to build boost, while achieving naturally- aspirated nirvana is a noble challenge.

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Boost Is Better
This EK is actually Jason's first K swap, as he prefers to try things out on his own cars before making them available to his customers. "I wanted to do it myself to learn all the ins and outs before I could feel right charging a walk-in customer to do it," says Jason. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of 'difficulty' other then the cost of the parts versus say, a B series. Of course it depends on all the different options that come with the K series changeover. But I can still say it's not something that can be done in a garage, like the B series swap."

Aside from the actual swap, the tastiest morsel under the hood is the Garrett GT35R turbo hanging proudly from the Peak Boost exhaust manifold. Because of this high boost duo - controlled by a Hondata K-Pro and Whitfield Racing boost controller - Jason opted for a two liter K20A2 from an RSX. With the proper turbo set-up, Jason did not feel the need to bump up to the K24. The larger displacement K24 also creates more ground clearance problems - something he wanted to avoid as the car will be frequently street-driven. While it hasn't yet been tuned, Jason estimates his current set-up with the blueprinted stock internals should be good for a steady, conservative 400whp. With similarly-outfitted K20 motors with built internals, the Whitfield Racing crew has churned out 700-plus whp. Take that, sucka NAs!

Hotties With Naughty Bodies
At first glance from the outside, these EKs look like brothers from another mother. Slightly shaved, brightly-colored, and dumped on a clean set of 16s. But look closer and, much like their sources of motivation, these two EKs are as different as the green and red sauce at King Taco (SoCal gourmands will know what we mean).

Leonard's '99 hatch is straight JDM with the exclusive Rando Sports front and rear bumpers and side skirts, as well as Max Racing 20 mm wide front fenders. H&H Auto Body sprayed on House of Kolor's Kandy Pink paint, while the works and heads, tails, wing, hatch, and tinted windows are all JDM CTR bits. The prized 16-inch Sprint Hart Dunlop CP-R wheels were damaged when Leonard first found them. So when they were repaired, he had them polished to a mirror finish, making them even more or less rare, depending on your point of view. Advanced Neova rubbers wrap the blinged-out wheels, which one can just make out a hint of the trademark blue on the Endless big brakes.

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Jason chose a more progressive approach for the exterior of his '98 EK9. Blending both JDM and good-old fashioned Yankee DM, it fuses divergent styles (unlike when Jonny tried to rock his Popeye Doyle porkpie with a BAPE hoodie). The face was slightly altered with a JDM CTR lip kit, rear wing, and those oh-so-cool, imported head and taillights. According to Jason, "Gampro straightened the original Honda body." Plus, they added a coat of on Sikkens Hot Lava Orange paint. The Konig Britelites look perfect due to the clean design and custom finish. Finally, Jason's footwear is enhanced by the appearance of Mr. Falken and Mrs. Wilwood.

Interiors Designed
Back in the day, a hardcore Honda JDMer only needed a Civic Type R road flare and JDM Shoshinoya Wakaba badge for style. But not anymore. Now you have to come correct with full interior transformations, which Leonard and Jason have done.

Both cars have been treated to proper Recaro chairs, with Leonard opting for the Kevlar Profis with Takata harnesses and Jason going for the JDM CTR models (he has a set of Mugen seats and Takatas on order though). Leonard and Jason must have a deal with the parts department at one of the Honda Verno dealerships, because each car is fitted with a complete CTR interior conversion, save for the RHD. JDM gauge cluster? Check. Door panel inserts? Check. Shift boot and center console? Check and double check. Each of these hatches also flosses a Mugen wheel with a Race II in Leonard's car while Jason has the much sought after and discontinued FG360.

Jason rests his DVS-clad dogs on real CTR carpeting. But Leonard didn't get this upholstery. In fact, his EK doesn't have any upholstery or sound-deafening material. Leonard found a real deal Mugen 6-point cage (which he likes because of the tight fit) and a really exotic Next Miracle X brace bar chassis, which fills the void left from the missing rear seats.

NA is Best
Which is best? We don't even know anymore. We'd rather let these guys go at each other with words just like "Yo Mamma," only without Fez. Leonard, do you have any final thoughts on the battle between NA and turbo?

"Being on both sides [my first Civic had a turbo'd B16], I love NA better even though a blow-off valve does sound nice," said Leonard. "On my boosted B16 EK, the engine eventually blew as the rings went out. That sucked because I was a poor college student at the time. Trying to rebuild and reboost was out of the question, so it went back to stock. On the B18 EK [SS September '05 cover car], having a stock, decently-powered B18 was sufficient enough for daily driving and occasional HPDEs. But I've always hated Subarus and Evos, with their stock turbo engines (especially their blow-off valves) so I built an EK with a NA K24 setup to show them."

Fast Facts
'99 Honda Civic Hatchback

Owner Leonard YeeHome Town Daly City, CA Daily Grind Retail, Baby! Power 270whp

Under The Hood '04 TSX K24 block with ERL Performance Superdeck sleeve system; Hasport EKK2 motor mounts; engine assembly by Ron Acevedo at Intrinsic Performance Solutions (IPS); IPS custom JE Pistons (12.0:1 compression ratio) and Cunningham Rods; K20A2 RSX Type-S head and intake cam gear, oil pump and squirters, and oil pan; IPS K2 cams; Eibach valve springs and titanium retainers; polished valve cover; Mugen oil cap; Vision spark plug cover; Denso Iridium spark plugs; Hayward Performance 52mm ITB intake system; Marren 440cc injectors; AEM FPR; Walbro in-tank fuel pump; Koyo RSX radiator and cap; L.P. slim radiator fans and dry cell battery; Signal Auto cooling plate; Endless reservoir covers; relocated fuse box, and headlight wiring harness; R Crew polished stainless steel header; Burns Stainless exhaust

Drivetrain '03 Civic Si 5-speed transmission; JDM ITR LSD; Exedy Stage 1 clutch with lightweight flywheel; Driveshaft Shop Level 1 axles; Omnipower Quicklutch MC; JDM DC5 shifter; Karcepts shifter mount

Brains Hondata K-Prostiff Stuff Zeal function B6 coilovers; JDM ITR front stabilizer bar; EG sub frame and manual steering rack; '99 GSR front sway bar; Cusco 40mm front strut bar; Comptech rear lower tie bar and rear sway bar; Next Miracle X bar, pillar bar, strut bar, and butterfly bar; SRR lower control arms

Rollers Custom polished Sprint Hart Dunlop CP-R 16x7 20mm front (10mm spacer) and 30mm rear offset; Zenki silver open end lug nuts; 205/45R18 Advan Neova AD-07

Stoppers front: Endless 4 piston calipers, slotted rotors, and stainless lines; rear: '99 Integra brakes with Fastbrakes brake upgrade and stainless lines; Endless NA-M pads

Outside House of Kolor Kandy Pink paint with shaved molding holes, antenna, emblems, and rear washer hose hole by H&H Auto body; Rando Sports front and rear bumpers and side skirts; Max Racing 20 mm wide front fender; OEM Honda Civic 4-door door handles; JDM EK9 CTR headlights (with HID plus HID retrofit), wing, rear hatch w/ factory tinted window, factory tinted quarter glass, JDM window visors; VIS carbon fiber hood; Signal Auto carbon fiber mirrors

Inside Mugen 6-point cage, steering wheel, and shift knob (with NRG quick release); Recaro Kevlar Profi seat (x2); Takata harnesses (x2); JDM EK9 door panel inserts, gauge cluster, air vent pocket tray, airbag tray, armrest eliminator, shift boot, and cup holder; sound-deafening removed from floor pan

ICE Pioneer P7300 head unit

Props my parents; brother Chris for letting me have garage space; GF Brandy; ENDLESS Projects family Chris Yap, Danny, Danillo, d2, John, Marc Chow Chow, Dr. Phil; the Tjin brothers and the Shim Quee; all my buddies; Dan and the crew at R Crew Racing; Ron at IPS; Kent at Endless USA; Rishie at AutoRnD; H&H Autobody in Oakland, CA; Geoff at JDM Theory; Casey at Burns Stainless; Dave at Memory Fab; N1 Concepts; Ken at Universal Polishing; Frank Lim; Super Street for giving me all these opportunities to grace their magazine; all the people I might have forgot and those who show me love; and The Bay Area movement.

Boost Is Better
Care to offer a rebuttal, Mr. Whitfield?"I can't lie; I want to win and that means doing whatever it takes to get to the finish line first!" Jason said. "I want the most power and if that takes boost, then that's what I'll do. I would rather walk then have something NA. Not that we don't do NA cars here at Whitfield Racing, but I just can't get into them. I put equal time into the engine bay, so why look boring with only a header and ITBs? Guys always dyno here with NA builds that make 250/260whp and spend just as much as a big build, boosted car. Half of them can't run pump gas because they have so much compression to get the power they need. When you race a 12-second car you need to bring something with you to keep you awake - even a 12-second turbo car is more fun to drive than NA! Unless you are scared.

Fast Facts
'99 Honda Civic Hatchback

Owner Jason Whitfield Hometown Upland, Ca (909!) Daily Grind President of Rage Performance and Whitfield RacingPower 270whp

Under The Hood RSX K20A2 block with blueprinted crank, pistons, and rods; Garrett GT35R turbo; TiAL 38mm blow-off valve and 44mm V-band wastegate; Peak Boost header and piping; PWR Performance intercooler and radiator; Golden Eagle fuel rail; RC 770cc injectors; XS FPR; Weldon in-tank fuel pump; Mugen spark plug wire cover

Drivetrain '02 JDM ITR 6-speed transmission modified by Gearspeed; Quaife LSD; Clutch Masters twin disc clutch; Driveshaft Shop Level 5 axles

Brains Hondata K-Pro; Whitfield Racing boost controller; wiring by James Lin Consulting stiff Stuff Omni Race coilovers and upper adjustable camber arms

Rollers Konig Britelite 16x7; Falken 205/45R16

Stoppers Wilwood front and rear brakes with 11-inch front rotors and stainless lines

Outside Sikkens Hot Lava Orange paint by Gampro; JDM CTR lip kit, rear wing, head and taillights

Inside JDM CTR Recaro seats, upholstery, door panels, console, and gauge cluster; '99 Civic Si dash; Mugen FG360 steering wheel, pedal set, and RSX 6-speed shift knob

Props My wife Amber, son Seth and all the family who let me do this; Kirk Fletcher, the hardest working guy I know; Ken at Peak Boost; Mike at Wilwood; Scott at Konig; Ernie at NOS Energy Drink; Mike and Shaun at Pit Crew; Jason at Gampro; James at James Lin Wiring Consulting; Ronald at AeroDuo; Tony Pellettera, and my bookkeeper, Shanin

Sources

N1 Concepts
Hayward, CA 94544
510-487-8889
http://www.n1concepts.com
Clutch Masters
Rialto, CA 92376
909-877-6800
http://www.clutchmasters.com
Wilwood
Camarillo, CA 93012
805-388-1188
http://www.wilwood.com
Endless
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
714-842-8551
http://www.endlessusa.com
By Little Michael Nadsy's Dadsy
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